How Should We Respond to the Refugee Crisis?

I, (Jason) recently read an article taken from an address given by David Platt, President of the International Mission Board, to The Gospel Coalition's Council in May 2016. Platt gives five Biblical truths and then asks the question, "What shall we do in light of these truths?"


FIVE BIBLICAL TRUTHS

1. God is sovereign over all things.

2. God orchestrates the movement of all peoples.

3. God has established government as a general means for the protection of all people.

4. The church is called to provide for God's people.

5. God seeks, shelters, serves, and showers the refugee with his grace.

 

From these five Biblical truths Platt gives five the following exhortations:

 

FIVE BRIEF EXHORTATIONS

1. Let’s pray to God earnestly.

What can we do right now, today, from our prayer closets? We can pray. We must pray.

God has ordained prayer as a powerful means by which you and I can participate with him in the accomplishing of his purposes in the world. We remember Moses in Exodus 32. God’s people were in dire need, but Moses didn’t sit idly by saying, “God is sovereign. He’ll do whatever he pleases.” No, Moses acted, and his faith in God’s sovereignty drove him to his knees, where he begged for God’s grace. Moses’s pleas for mercy became the means of God’s provision for the needy.

Our prayers matter. So let’s be active and pray to God earnestly and continually for his mercy to be made known among refugees. Whether they’re riding on that raft in the middle of the Aegean Sea or waiting in an American airport or huddled in a tent at the border of Macedonia, let’s plead for God’s provision, because we know the One who hears our cries will answer according to his compassion.

2. Let’s proclaim the gospel urgently.

Do we realize the unprecedented opportunity among those who have lived in countries where there’s been little to no gospel access?

Many of these people have already come to us before the recent executive action to restrict the flow of refugees. Many are near gospel-preaching churches and gospel-sharing Christians. I bet there are refugees near your town and you don’t even know it. Could it be that God has orchestrated the movement of specific people so that you or your family or your church might be the means by which these refugees hear the gospel for the first time? Let’s spread the gospel urgently both here and abroad. Many in our midst are disillusioned by Islam—their hearts ache for good news. And we have the greatest news! Just consider the beauty of the gospel, the good news of a God who actually identifies with the refugee, a God who came as a baby boy. Consider the first story we have about Jesus after his birth is his exodus to Egypt, driven to a foreign country by a murderous king. This God is not distant from us—and he’s not distant from the experience of the refugee. No, our God is present with us. He’s no stranger to suffering, and he’s familiar with our pain. He has not left the outcast and oppressed alone in a world of sin and suffering. Instead, he has come to us. He has conquered for us. He has severed the root of suffering—sin itself—and he has defeated death forever.

This is the greatest news in the world, and refugees everywhere need to hear it. We must never forget the vitally important needs of food and water, clothing and shelter. But isn’t the gospel the refugee’s greatest need? Friends, they won’t hear it unless we proclaim it, and doors are open today for us to do just that. Doors are open that have never been open before.

Syrians, Afghans, Somalis, Iranians, Iraqis, Kurds—they’re open to listening to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’ve sat in tent after tent, and as I’ve heard their stories, I’ve been able to bring the greatest story to bear on their own. One Syrian woman said to a missionary: “I’m tired of being tied to religion that doesn’t offer me hope. I want to be a new person.” She, her husband, and their friend all placed their faith in Christ that day and were baptized outside the camp. When her sister arrived at the camp, she shared the gospel with her, and her sister was also baptized. I heard of two Kurdish brothers whose family had been killed by radicals in Iraq, right in front of their eyes. Upon hearing the gospel they simply responded, “We don’t want to be Muslim anymore. We want to follow Jesus.”

Security in this world should not be prioritized over proclamation of God’s Word. As followers of Christ, self is no longer our god. Safety is no longer our ultimate concern. I can go on with story after story. I hope the point is plain. Unprecedented opportunities abound for the spread of the gospel among people who’ve never heard it until now. Now, are there risks in proclaiming the gospel to refugees? Sure there are. But where have we gotten the idea that Christianity is devoid of risk? Security in this world should not be prioritized over proclamation of God’s Word. As followers of Christ, self is no longer our god. Safety is no longer our ultimate concern. So let’s show this with our lives. Let’s go and preach the gospel urgently, knowing others’ lives depend on it, and gladly giving our own lives toward that end.

3. Let’s act justly.

What does the Lord require of us? The answer isn’t that we talk justice, but that we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. 

May contrite lives before God produce courageous leadership in the church. Let’s not forget how Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23: “For you tithe mint and dill and cumin and yet have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.” 

To that end, let’s not be so consumed with biblical minutiae that we forsake practical ministry. It’s easy to stay focused on small things, even small things that are important. I don’t use the term “biblical minutiae” as if there’s anything unimportant in the Bible. It’s all important. But Jesus is clearly saying, “Don’t lose sight of justice and mercy and faithfulness. Tithing, according to the law, is important, but so is generous, sacrificial care for people in crisis.”

4. Let’s love sacrificially.

We all know the story of the Good Samaritan. He took the man in need, cared for him, provided for him, paid for him, and sacrificed for him without question or hesitation.

Jesus is saying love strangers like that. Love even your enemies like that. Lay down your life for them.

5. Let’s hope confidently.

A day is coming when sin and suffering will be no more, a day when wars and crises will cease. In this, we place our confident hope.

At the same time, we know that at this moment, every follower of Christ finds him or herself in a foreign land. The witness of the New Testament tells us that we’re sojourners and exiles, longing for a better country. We’re seeking a homeland, a city that’s to come.

We’re all migrants here, a collective, multicultural citizenry of an otherworldly kingdom. So we wait and work in our day in anticipation of that day when we will gather with a great multitude from every nation—one that no one can number, one representing every tribe and people and language. And together, no longer as sojourners and exiles, but as sons and daughters, we’ll give our God the glory he is due.